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Lib Dems to censure Mayor over remarks
9:40am Friday 1st March 2013 in News
OXFORD’S Lord Mayor is facing disciplinary action from his own party after being censured for allegedly making an inappropriate remark to a 13-year-old girl.
Alan Armitage’s comments have been branded “absolutely unacceptable” by the chairman of his local Liberal Democrats.
An investigation was launched after it was claimed Mr Armitage told the girl “It’s sexy when you bend down like that” while attending a sporting event in Iffley Road last June.
On Wednesday, Oxford City Council’s standards committee agreed Mr Armitage had breached the councillors’ code of conduct.
The committee felt his behaviour had brought both the position of Lord Mayor and the city council into disrepute.
Last night Tony De Vere, chairman of Oxford West and Abingdon Liberal Democrats, said: “Such behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and this is a matter the Liberal Democrats take extremely seriously. We have started the process of seeking appropriate disciplinary action.”
Despite the standards committee finding it “highly probable” that the Lib Dem city councillor for North ward did make an inappropriate comment to a member of an under-13 sports team it ruled there was “no reason” why Mr Armitage should not continue with his mayoral duties.
For the rest of his term of office Mr Armitage has 14 civic engagements scheduled, including taking part in the Royal Maundy service when the Queen comes to Oxford on Thursday, March 28.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail last night he said he would continue in office until his term ends in May.
Mr Armitage, who is also a county councillor for West Central Oxford, said: “I am certainly not planning to give up the position of Lord Mayor because the city council has said they wanted me to carry on.
“My county council position is up for election and I have not yet decided whether to continue and fight it in May. I have not heard from anyone that I ought to be resigning.
“I have said all along that I may have said some of the words which are imputed to me but it is not very likely. I have tried to tell the truth.”
The city council does not have the power to remove him from his post of Lord Mayor, only to recommend to his group leader that he is removed from any committees or sub-committees, but this action has not been taken.
Council leader Bob Price declined to comment last night.
On Monday, Mr Armitage will be meeting senior Lib Dems on Oxfordshire County Council about the standards committee’s decision.
Zoe Patrick, leader of the county Lib Dem group, said: “Obviously we are going to have a discussion with him about what has happened but I cannot predict what will come out of that.”
THE report into the allegations against Mr Armitage was redacted to remove anything that could identify the 13-year-old girl he made his comments to.
But it also contained three large paragraphs which were also blanked out.
City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “The paragraphs have been redacted as they refer to a disclosable pecuniary interest held by Councillor Armitage, the detail of which is considered to be sensitive under section 32 of the Localism Act 2011.
“Councillor Armitage referred to his interest by way of background information to the investigator.
“However, the interest itself had no relevance to the facts of the matter under investigation and there was no requirement for him to declare the existence of it.”